Experiential learning is a key part of the Strategic Leadership Programme. Programme directors Lisa Sofianos and Gary Reed explain why ahead of the next cohort on 21 May.
Poor Einstein has been mercilessly mined for inspirational quotes for many years, but here’s one we can’t resist: “The only source of knowledge is experience”.
We are unlike Einstein in many ways, but on this we share his commitment to the value of experiential learning in transforming abstract theory into practical knowledge. This is one of the tenets that informs and shapes the design of the Strategic Leadership Programme (SLP).
Another is that, on SLP, we know that we are working with people who are already effective in their roles running complex academic institutions. With this firmly in our minds, we see our job as facilitators is to offer provocations and reframing to help participants move their thinking somewhere new. For us, this is the real work of leadership development, with responsibilities on both sides to learn.
So far so good, but how does this translate into programme activity?
SLP alumni tell us one of the elements they really value is the simulation exercise where participants take a role in the leadership team of a fictitious – but oddly familiar – university. Their task is to work together to complete some stretching challenges set by the “vice chancellor”. They present their solutions back to the “Executive Board” and are given specific and constructive feedback on their process.
The simulation allows participants to experiment with organisational dynamics in an environment that is safe and removed from the immediacy of their own organisational context.
They can take risks, try out the new ideas they have encountered earlier in the programme, and not worry about the consequences, beyond what they can learn from them.
This is not a role-play, rather participants are encouraged to step outside their tried and tested approaches and begin to find their own authentic expression of leadership.
Past participants say the real value of this exercise is in helping them to gain insights into:
- How they operate in a group of leaders and their ideas about roles and responsibilities
- How they lead and are affected by group dynamics
- Their assumptions about organisations and their own institutions
- How they react to pressure
- How they prioritise and maintain focus
- Their levels of creativity
The environment is fast-paced and complex, but it is safe and supportive, and most importantly, fun!
And that highlights another of our tenets. Serious learning in a fun, relaxed, and safe environment is an indispensable SLP ingredient.
We look forward to you joining us on the programme.
The Strategic Leadership Programme is for aspiring senior leaders and aims to build leaders who are flexible and resilient. Find out more and apply here